If you’ve done any research on surreal photography, you would likely find Erik Johansson in your search results. Born in 1985 in Sweden, Erik didn’t set out to be a photographer.
His love for photography and photo manipulation began when he received his first point-and-shoot camera when he was 15. Not considering photography to be a real career path, Erik studied computer engineering at the Chalmers University of Technology. He kept photographing as a hobby, but his fascination with photography was reignited after a friend got a DSLR camera and discovered a whole new world of photography.
“I took up my interest for photography and photo manipulation once again but this time having a better camera I felt like I wanted to spend more time manipulating them as well,” he said about this time in his life. He started to pick up some jobs retouching photos for local ad agencies and started to do some freelance jobs while he studied at the university.
Upon finishing his Masters in Interaction Design, he had to make a choice. He could go onto his chosen career path or jump into the strange and exciting world of a digital artist and create some impossible photos in the process.
Since you are reading an article about famous digital artists, you can probably guess what he chose. However, his choice was actually a surprising one based on his personality. You see, he likes to have a high level of control in most of what he does, so choosing a career path where you have no guarantee of a job or success is a little out of character.
Despite all of this, he did jump off the deep end and give digital photography a try and after moving to a new city, working with more ad agencies, and publishing some of his work online, he started to get some international requests.
You can see this high level of control in his work, which can be summed up in a few steps: sketch, plan, shoot, and edit.
- Sketch. It all starts with an idea. He says, “Not many ideas get realized, but if I think it’s good enough I decide to try to make it happen.”
- Plan. Lots and lots of planning. Sometimes this planning is done in a couple of days, sometimes several months, sometimes years. This is where he does his problem-solving. He strives to find the perfect perspective, reflections, materials, and light directions.
- Shoot. There is more to just shooting a photo than snapping the picture. Erik also needs to collect and/or create materials needed. He uses all his own photography and never uses stock photos. His reasoning for this comes back to that control element: “I always want to be in complete control of my photos and feel like I've done everything myself. It limits me in a way that I can’t realize all ideas I have, but limitations are good sometimes to define the work.”
- Edit. This part takes anywhere from a few days to several weeks. It is the process of blending images together. “This is actually the easiest step if I did a good job in the first and second step.”
Erik has worked with companies like Volvo, Toyota, Google, Adobe, Microsoft, and National Geographic and you can see his inspiration on a TedTalk he did a few years back. His work is truly inspiring and you can see his passion for creating surreal photos with every new project he works on!
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